The jury heard the opening statements in the Harvey Weinstein trial more than two years after the outpouring of allegations by women began, sparking the #MeToo movement. A jury of seven men, predominantly white, and five women, predominantly women of colour sat in court to hear the case.
As Harvey Weinstein hobbled into court, supported by his publicist and lambasting Arthur Aidala to slow down, a female reporter asked if he thought he’d get a fair trial. He replied, “Yes. I have good lawyers.”
The Assistant District Attorney, Meghan Hast, led for the prosecution and said that Harvey Weinstein was not just a titan in Hollywood but a rapist and sexual predator and that the court would hear evidence that he is a sexual predator.
Finally, after all these years, these three women will have their voices heard,” Hast said, referring to the two women whose allegations form the basis of the New York criminal trial and a third, “The Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who is expected to testify.
The defence, led by Damon Cheronis, said the relationships were consensual and Harvey Weinstein was not a “master manipulator.” He said that the prosecution gave a preview of a movie they were not going to see and the women’s accounts did not hold water. He used a Powerpoint to show extracts from e-mails, interpreting friendly exchanges, questioning the timeline and the women reaching out to Harvey Weinstein.
“We’re not victim shaming. Victim is a conclusion attained only after a trial. These are complaining witnesses” Cheronis lectured the court.
My Two Cents: the opening statements in the Harvey Weinstein trial were somewhat predictable. The defence’s D game was strong – they are clearly on the offensive and out to discredit, deny, derail, distract and delay. Two motions filed again for a new jury and to declare a mistrial (both tenuous and denied by Judge Burke) and they played into every rape myth and misconception out there.
Anyone who caveats a sentence stating that they are not doing something, usually is doing or about to do that thing that they say they are not doing! “We’re not victim shaming….but….”
Furthermore, defendant’s are not proven “innocent” at court. They are acquitted if the reasonable doubt test is not met. And, in no other crime type do we use either the word “accuser” or words “complaining witness.” That is a myth and utter nonsense.
And the fact that the women stayed in contact with Harvey Weinstein in no way negates the fact that a sexual assault occurred. In fact, it is common with victims of abuse, particularly when there is a relationship, a power imbalance and a working relationship. It was well known that Harvey Weinstein launched people’s careers – and destroyed people’s careers – if you did not give him what he wanted.
The messiness of it all is what makes their accounts authentic and compelling. Let me say this loud and clear. There is no perfect victim of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking. This is where experts in sexual violence, trauma and coercive control are needed to shatter these myths and misconceptions and explain the context of power and control and the dynamics of abuse.